Cuts and Consequences for International Family Planning

February 25, 2013 • Family Planning, United States, News

Cuts and Consequences for International Family Planning


One week from today-unless Congress and the President reach a deal to avoid it-an across-the-board cut in federal spending will cause international family planning and reproductive health programs to lose tens of millions of dollars, resulting in the denial of contraceptive services to nearly 1.7 million women and in almost 500,000 women having unintended pregnancies as a consequence.  The clock is ticking.

On March 1, absent an agreement on long-term budget deficit reduction, large, automatic cuts will be made to domestic and defense programs under an arcane process known as “sequestration.”  This scenario was set in motion during the high-stakes, partisan negotiations to raise the nation’s debt ceiling back in 2011.  The thought at the time was that the magnitude of the funding cuts-particularly to the U.S. military-required under sequestration would force agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction package balancing spending cuts with additional tax revenue.  But now the politically unthinkable appears to have become thinkable-and sequestration is seemingly all but inevitable, at least temporarily.

What would sequestration mean for overseas family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs?  In fiscal year 2012, funding for international FP/RH programs in all accounts is earmarked at $610 million, including a $35 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  While no final decisions have probably been made yet on how sequestration would be applied within the foreign assistance budget, it seems likely that the 5.3 percent reduction to non-defense discretionary programs estimated by the Congressional Budget Office would be applied to the earmarks of bilateral economic assistance for USAID programs and multilateral assistance for U.S. government’s contribution to UNFPA.  The net effect would be a cut of $32.3 million to FP/RH programs from the FY 2012 appropriated level.

What would these funding cuts mean in the lives of women and their families in developing countries who are the beneficiaries of USAID and UNFPA programs?  Based on an analysis of the powerful impact of U.S. investment in FP/RH programs overseas by the Guttmacher Institute, the following potential effects of the reduced funding level can be calculated:

  • 1.68 million women denied access to contraceptive services & supplies
  • 485,000 additional unintended pregnancies
  • 226,000 additional unplanned births
  • 226,000 additional abortions (of which 162,000 are unsafe)
  • 1,292 maternal deaths
  • 6,460 children losing their mothers

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